Sydney is battling its worst Covid outbreak since the pandemic began, with daily case numbers soaring past 200 while other states grapple with smaller spot fires.
Every day more venues are added to a growing list of Covid exposure sites and hotspots are put on notice, but what actually happens to those who test positive?
Close to 35,000 Australians have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic. Here’s what happen if you return a positive swab.
How will I know if I have tested positive?
Someone from the relevant state or territory health department will call an infected person to inform them they’ve tested positive and must isolate immediately.
Contact tracers will then ask the person if they have been out in the community and for a list of public places they’ve visited (and what days/times) where they may have exposed others to Covid-19.
They’ll ask them to inform all close and casual contacts about their infection. Close contacts must isolate for two weeks regardless.
Health authorities will also ask an infected person about their symptoms and whether they need medical support before explaining what to do next, whether that be isolating at home or in a specialised medical facility.
Can I isolate at home or do I need to go to hospital?
In some states, like Queensland, a Covid-positive person is not allowed to isolate at home.
For instance, anyone diagnosed with Covid in Queensland must travel – via ambulance or specialised transport organised by Queensland Health – straight to a designated care facility to isolate for two weeks.
However, children can isolate at home with their parent or carer.
The Victorian government website states a person can either isolate in hospital if they need care, at home if suitable or in another location “if needed as decided by your public health authority”.
People cannot leave isolation until they have recovered and been cleared by the health department.
In NSW people can also isolate at home, but preferably only if they can reside in a separate area of the home and have access to their own bathroom.
If they need to move through common areas they must wear a mask.
A risk assessment team will determine whether a person can safely isolate at home in other states and territories like Victoria and South Australia.
What if my condition deteriorates and I need medical care?
People who test positive will receive regular calls or texts, sometimes multiple times a day, from health staff checking in to make sure they are recovering OK both physically and mentally.
There is no particular treatment for Covid infection and most people will recover on their own. Local GPs and pharmacies can help by delivering any medical supplies to a person’s home.
But if an individuals condition deteriorates, they should seek emergency care.
Government departments recommend a person call triple-0 immediately if they start to experience shortness of breath, difficulty breathing or other life-threatening symptoms.
“Tell the ambulance staff you have been diagnosed with Covid-19,” the NSW Health website states.
The same goes for all jurisdictions.
Victoria also has a Covid hotline that people can call if they’re symptoms get worse but are not considered serious.
What if I live alone and need supplies/support?
The government recommends an infected person get family and friends to call them regularly to check if they’re OK.
If they need supplies they can order them for contactless delivery or get someone to drop them to the door.
But anyone who drops anything to an infected person’s house should avoid direct contact by dropping the food at the doorstep and leaving immediately.
Every state and territory will offer support to those who live alone, whether that be phone calls to check in on their mental health and the status of their Covid condition.
There is also financial relief for people who live alone and are unable to work because they’re isolating.
According to the Fair Work Commission, an employer usually doesn’t have to pay an employee for time that they can’t work because of a government direction unless the employee takes paid leave.
But any sick person should let their employer know about their situation as soon as possible.
“Full-time and part-time employees can take paid sick leave if they can’t work because they’re sick with coronavirus,” the Fair Work website states.
“If they have no paid sick leave left, they should arrange with their employer to take some other type of paid or unpaid leave.”
Some states and t erritories are offering their own financial support.
Like in Victoria, there’s a $450 test and isolate payment for people who are required to get a Covid test and stay home until they get their result.
If they test positive they might be eligible for the federal government’s $1500 pandemic leave disaster payment.
The same goes for NSW residents who might also be able to get the Covid-19 disaster payment for “workers adversely affected by a state public health order”.
How do I know when my isolation period ends?
The relevant health department or clinical team will call a person to let them know their isolation period is over.
In NSW there are several reasons a person could meet the criteria to be released from isolation, such as two weeks passing since the positive test and the person no longer has symptoms, or 14 days have passed since the onset of symptoms and they haven’t shown symptoms for the last three days.
If a person still has symptoms but at least 20 days have passed since they started feeling unwell – and they are not immunocompromised – they can also leave.
Sometimes a person might also be freed if they return two negative tests taken at least 24 hours apart, 10 days after they developed symptoms.
But this is all up to the discretion of the relevant health department.
Originally published as What happens if you test Covid positive